Tmol Shilshom: the restaurant that is a cultural institution of Jerusalem

Dan Goldenberg looks at a large brown armchair in the corner of Tmol Shilshom’s dining room, where the mismatched wooden tables and chairs are the same as when the restaurant first opened in 1994.

“That is Yehuda Amichai’s chair,” he says. “And David and I used to sit there every day and have a glass of wine. Sometimes when I sit there today, I still feel like David is leading me and telling me what to do. “

Amichai, of course, was the famous poet who used to read his poems aloud at Tmol Shilshom, and David was David Ehrlich, the beloved writer and co-owner of Tmol Shilshom, who died in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic.

Under David’s leadership, Tmol Shilshom became a cultural mecca with frequent literary and musical events. The name of the restaurant is taken from the title of a novel by SY Agnon, which translates to “Just yesterday.”

While David did not die of COVID-19, Goldenberg believes the pandemic is responsible for his death at the age of 61. Just two days before, the first closure forced them to close the restaurant. They knew the closure would be lengthy, and Goldenberg says they didn’t think they could reopen.

“David was devastated,” he says sadly.

That night, David did not feel well, but he was afraid to go to the hospital for fear of COVID-19. The next morning, he had a fatal heart attack.

Goldenberg thought that was the end of Tmol Shilshom. But the staff started a GoFundMe campaign that raised NIS 320,000 and the restaurant was able to reopen.

“The workers and customers gave me a lot of confidence,” says Goldenberg.

Tmol Shilshom was a fixture in the English-speaking world of Jerusalem. So many couples had their first dates and engagements there that Ehrlich wrote a book about some of the couples who met at Tmol Shilshom. Goldenberg says that while the restaurant was closed one day a young man came in and said that he and his wife were celebrating their third anniversary and that he wanted to surprise her by celebrating at Tmol Shilshom.

Israeli actor, director, playwright and acting teacher Hagai Luber speaks during an artists conference at Tmol Shilshom Cafe in Jerusalem (credit: HADAS PARUSH / FLASH90)

“But we are closed,” Goldenberg said. “We have unplugged the refrigerators, there are no staff. It’s not possible.”

“I’ll bring everything,” said the young man. “Let me use the place.”

Goldenberg agreed and the couple had a private celebration at the closed restaurant.

Another couple got engaged in Tmol Shilshom and also had the brit and then the bar mitzvah of their first child there.

MY HUSBAND and I arrived at Tmol Shilshom on a Friday morning at 9:30, when it was empty. By the time we left around 11, both the restaurant rooms and the outdoor patio were full.

The menu is undergoing a make-over, but a number of full breakfasts are offered. I chose the classic Shakshuka breakfast (64 NIS), with shakshuka in a slightly spicy tomato, pepper and onion sauce. There is also an Italian Shakshuka (64 NIS) with mozzarella, pesto, and fresh basil, a Greek Shakshuka (64 NIS) with feta and kalamata olives, and a vegan Shakshuka with tofu, olives, and vegan cheese. It came with various sauces, including aubergine cream and tehina.

All breakfasts include a cold drink and a hot drink. You can usually upgrade to fresh-squeezed juice for an additional NIS 5, but they ran out of fresh juice. We upgraded to a baked focaccia for an additional NIS 9, which was well worth it. The shakshuka was delicious, and the coffee even came with the foam turned into a picture of a leaf.

My husband ordered breakfast on the streets (64 NIS), with a mushroom and herb omelette that he said was excellently cooked, and the same extras that came with my breakfast.

For dessert, our friendly waitress, Eden, recommended the crack cake. My husband ordered it and I “tried” it, which means he gets all the calories.

When we were almost ready to go, a young couple with a baby sat in the corner next to us. The father, with a long red beard, was sitting in the Amichai chair. The mother breastfed the baby and then handed it to the father, who placed the baby facing out on his chest, where he quietly lay back and looked around, perfectly satisfied. The tired-looking couple ordered and ate their breakfast and drank much-needed coffee.

I could almost see Amichai and Ehrlich smiling.

Tmol Shilshom

5 Yoel Moshe Solomon, Jerusalem

Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 9 a.m. M. At 10:30 p. M .; Friday, 9 a.m. M. At 2 p. M.

Telephone: (02-623-2758)

Kashrut: Rabbinate of Jerusalem. All vegetables are Gush Katif.

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.

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